Monthly Archives: December 2010

His Spontaneous Working (Part Two)

The Spontaneous Working of Christ Living in Us

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Col. 1:29

Life, spontaneous life, in us is Jesus Christ. He is “the law of the Spirit of life” who has set us free “from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:3). As we love Christ, as we draw near to him, as we abide in him, Jesus’ life overflows in and through us (1 John 4:9). That life, Christ’s life, spontaneously overflows as we trust him to live in and through us.

As Christ overflows, we become amazed that Jesus would work through our failings, struggles, and weaknesses. The overflow of the life of Christ in us is the life and life more abundant that Jesus offers (John 10:10). This life, Christ’s life, is the peace that passes all understanding, the rest that calms all anxiety and fear, the love that unselfishly serves, and the wisdom that makes godly choices.

This is what makes Christianity so special. We have a life within us, and this life is just Christ Himself. There is no need for us to use our own strength. This life will spontaneously express itself in meekness, goodness, humility, and patience. Christ in us becomes our meekness, our goodness, our humility, and our patience. God has put His Son within us so that Christ Himself will live spontaneously out of us in all circumstances.

When we are tempted by anxiety, this life will manifest itself as patience. When we are tempted by pride, this life will manifest itself as humility. When we are tempted by defilement, this life will manifest itself as holiness. Christ will express His patience, His humility, His meekness, and His holiness from within us. Christ becomes our patience, our humility, and our holiness.

It is not a matter of our doing, but a matter of Christ living. We do not need to fulfill God’s goal by living by ourselves or even by the power of the Lord. The spontaneous manifestation of Christ Himself fulfills God’s goal. When the Lord is expressed through us, we become what we are spontaneously.

Watchman Nee, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream MInistry, 1993), 109.

His Spontaneousness Working (Part One)

The Spontaneous Working of Christ Living in Us

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

Eph. 3:20

Christ lives in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. All that Christ is in the gospels, all that Christ is as the second person of the Trinity, and all that Christ is as Lord now lives in us. Since Christ lives in us, we are never alone. Since Christ lives in us, we have the power to live holy lives. Since Christ lives in us, we can respond (not react) to every life situation according to the will of God. Since Christ lives in us, we can daily experience Him intimately and powerfully by faith. Therefore, we desire all of Him in all of us all the time.

What is the Christian life? The Christian life is just Christ. What does it mean for Christ to live within us? Christ living within us means that Christ is our life and that He is living instead of us. We do not live by the power of Christ. Rather, Christ lives within us and on our behalf. This is an inheritance that we can enjoy.

God has given Christ to us to be our life. This life is a law, and it is spontaneous. There is no need for us to do anything. The law of the Spirit of life is in us. When this law operates, it spontaneously does things for us. If it were not a law, there would be the need for self-effort, and we would have to do something. But since it is a law, there is no need for self-effort . . . .

Watchman Nee, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream MInistry, 1993), 109.

Did the Slaughter of the Innocents Happen?

Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

On December 28th of every year, the Church Calendar commemorates the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents. The commemoration of the Massacre of the Innocents recalls the events of Matthew 2:16-18. By Herod the Great’s direction, the slaughter of all males two years old and under was ordered in an attempt to kill the infant Messiah.

Liberal scholars question the veracity of this story because the event is only told in the Gospel of Matthew and not mentioned in the writings of Jewish historian, Josephus. Recently, National Geographic magazine reported:

But, gratutiously, and highlighted by a quotation box, they insert the claim that Herod almost certainly did not kill the babies two years old and under in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.  The sole reason given is that the report of this massacre occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew.  Of course, very liberal scholars have said something similar for a long time, but without good reason.

Craig Blomberg, National Geographic Blows It Again”,

Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament at Denver Theological Seminary in Colorado points out the inconsistency of the National Geographic argument:

What makes the National Geographic report’s statement all the more unfortunate is that it comes right in the context of fairly detailed recounting of Josephus’ reports of all the cruelty and executions Herod did manufacture.  Increasingly paranoid as he got older about supposed threats to his “throne,” he had several of his sons and wives put to death.  It would be one thing if Josephus gave one kind of portrait of Herod and Matthew a quite different one, but both sources agree entirely on Herod’s ruthlessness and the specific manner it most manifested itself–repeated murders of those even slightly perceived to be a threat to his power.  Reports that a boy had been born with the right ancestral credentials to reign over Israel would easily have threatened this megalomaniac from Idumea who wasn’t even a Jew by birth and would never have survived the installment of someone with the right lineage.

Why then is this murderous tragedy not retold in secular histories? Blomberg explains:

So why didn’t Josephus say anything about these babies?  Because, like all other historians of his day, he was concerned to recount the events related to the kings and queens, military generals, aristocracy, and institutionalized leaders of religion of his people–not the lives and times of ordinary peasants.  Bethlehem had at most 500 people and, even factoring in large families, one can scarcely imagine more than 20-25 babies affected by Herod’s soldiers’ raids, and perhaps less.  It was a blip on the horizon of Herod’s nefarious resume.  It may even have been little reported in circles outside of later Christian ones.

One more time, major press outlets cannot ask one Evangelical scholar for an opinion about a Bible story. The press acts as if Bible-believing scholars do not exist.

Why God Came Into the World

A Savior Born

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21 NLT

Why did God come into the world? Why did the Son of God take on human flesh and walk among us?

Did Jesus Christ come to educate us? No, better professors is not what we needed. More knowledge and better technology will not change hearts and establish justice.

Did Jesus come to bring “peace on earth”? Yes, peace to those who receive him as Lord and Savior, but not to those who reject his claims upon their hearts. Jesus declared, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34 NLT). Loyalty to Jesus will bring strife and division as people receive or reject Jesus’ calling on their lives.

Did Jesus come to militarily overthrow oppressive governments that subjugate their peoples? At the second coming, Jesus will return in power and great glory to judge the nations. However in the first century, Jesus’ arrival exposes humankind’s greatest problem: selfish and corrupt hearts.

Why did God come into this world? Only the scriptural answer will suffice: the second person of the Trinity has been born because he loves the world. But why did he come this way, as a little baby? Why did he choose to lie in a manger and be cared for by a human mother, with the sweetness but the utter weakness of a newborn babe? He came this way because he came to meet the central need of men.

He did not come to overthrow the Romans, though a lot of the Jews would have loved that. If he had, he would have come riding on a great conquering steed.

The central reason he came was not to raise the living standards of the world. Surely if modern man were going to vote on the way he would like a messiah to appear, he would want him loaded down with moneybags from heaven.

He did not come primarily to teach and relieve ignorance—perhaps then he would have come laden with books.

An angel had revealed to Joseph the primary task for which he came: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He is here to cut the nerve of man’s real dilemma, to solve the problem from which all other problems flow. Man is a sinner who needs an overwhelming love. Jesus has come to save his people from their sins.

Francis Schaeffer, “Seeing Jesus With the Shepherds,” Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, ed., Nancy Guthrie (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 105.

Why a Virgin Birth?

The Incarnation

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Could there have been another way for the Son of God to come to earth and be both fully human and fully divine in every way? If Christ was born of both parents, it is hard for us to believe he is fully divine, God in all his glory and perfections. If Christ descends to earth and takes upon himself a human body without birth, then it is hard for us to believe he is fully human. Something unique, something beyond the imagination of humankind must take place. The Virgin Birth is the divine solution to this perplexing dilemma: Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit without a human father (Matt. 1:23). Reformed theologian, Wayne Grudem, provides a fuller explanation:

The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal 4:4) into the world as a man. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person.

It probably would have been possible for God to create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are, nor would he be a part of the human race that physically descended from Adam.

On the other hand, it probably would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with his full divine nature miraculously united to his human nature at some point early in his life. But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since his origin was like ours in every way.

When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 530.

The Incarnation Means . . .

God Came in Human Form

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Incarnation means that Jesus Christ the eternal Word of God is God in human flesh. This is the great act of God: the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took upon himself our human nature (Phil. 2:6-7). The incarnation is the miraculous bringing together of humanity and divinity in a single person, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Wayne Grudem stated so succinctly, “Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever” (Systematic Theology, 529).

Incarnation means Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, near us, transforming us. The incarnation means that God cared and came among us to deliver us from ourselves. The incarnation means that God has experienced our pain, disappointment, and suffering. The incarnation means  . . .

The incarnation shows us how weak we are: After all, how much power and influence does an infant have? And yet, He’s the Savior we needed.

The name of that incarnate baby, “Jesus” shows us our true need: We need a Savior from our sin, not moral reform. We need a Rescuer, not a self-help guru (Matthew 1:21).

The incarnation shows us that in every way He’s just like us. He suffered as an infant. He’s been tempted in every way just as we have, yet without sin. He knows what it is to be cold, to be dependent, to die…yes, even to live again.

The incarnation tells us that Christmas isn’t ever over. When we’ve packed up all the decorations and taken back all the mistaken gifts, he’ll still be the God/Man, interceding for us, bearing our flesh. Christmas will never end for Jesus: He’s eternally transformed.

The incarnation means that the only person who is qualified by His nature and life to pay for our sins has done so. The incarnation was always meant to lead him, to lead us, to the cross.

The incarnation means that we have fulfilled all the Law. Because we are united with him and he with us, we have loved God and our neighbor perfectly, because he has. We’re righteous because the God-Man has already done everything that needed to be done. We’re justified.

The incarnation means that when we enter heaven we’ll be greeted by Someone who is just like us, but with nail-scarred hands and feet. He’ll be the only one there with scars.

Elyse Fitzpatrick, “God Becomes Man” . . . What ?

HT: Crossway Books

We Should Celebrate Christmas!

“It Was Love, Mere Love”

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

When I was young in the Lord, I would hear church leaders in certain theological circles argue against the celebration of Christmas. They would explain that Christmas was derived from a pagan holiday (not true), that Christmas should be lived in our hearts everyday (true, but that does not rule out a special celebration), and that the holiday was too commercial (true again, but correct the problem–do not throw out the feast day).

The great evangelist, George Whitefield, who preached throughout the American colonies during the Great Awakening, graciously argued for the continued celebration of the Feast of the Nativity. Whitefield points to the greatness of God’s love which motivated the Son of God to become fully human and fully divine in one person for our salvation’s sake.

It was love, mere love; it was free love that brought the Lord Jesus Christ into our world  . . . . What, shall we not remember the birth of our Jesus? Shall we yearly celebrate the birth of our temporal king, and shall that of the King of kings be quite forgotten? Shall that only, which ought to be had chiefly in remembrance, be quite forgotten? God forbid! No, my dear brethren, let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church, with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s love never be forgotten!

May we sing forth all his love and glory as long as life shall last here, and through an endless eternity in the world above! May we chant forth the wonders of redeeming love, and the riches of free grace, amidst angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, without intermission, for ever and ever! And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance.

George Whitefield, “The Observation of the Birth of Christ,” Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

My Sermon Audio


The mp3 audio files of my sermons preached at Lamb of God Charismatic Episcopal Church are now found at the Lamb of God website. The audio sermons are availble for free. However, my sermon notes will continue to be posted here at the Glorious Deeds of Christ blog. Go to categories section and click on the “My Sermons” link for my notes and outlines. Thank you for your encouragement concerning my preaching and teaching ministry.

The Humility of Mary

Surrender to the Will of God

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, one has to admire the courage, self-surrender, and devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Bible gives us no background to her childhood, the circumstances of her life, or the manner of her love for God. Yet, this fifteen-year old girl was sovereignly chosen by God to be the instrument for giving birth to the Savior of the world. Mary was willing to be ostracized, rejected, scorned, and ridiculed for her obedience to God. God was everything to Mary and she was willing to be an empty vessel for his greater glory.

We need the humility of Mary. She accepted God’s purpose, saying, ‘May it be to me as you have said’ . . . We also need Mary’s courage. She was so completely willing for God to fulfil his purpose, that she was ready to risk the stigma of being an unmarried mother, of being thought an adulteress herself and of bearing an illegitimate child. She surrendered her reputation to God’s will.

I sometimes wonder if the major cause of much theological liberalism is that some scholars care more about their reputation than about God’s revelation. Finding it hard to be ridiculed for being naive and credulous enough to believe in miracles, they are tempted to sacrifice God’s revelation on the altar of their own respectability. I do not say that they always do so. But I feel it right to make the point because I have myself felt the strength of this temptation.

John Stott, The Authentic Jesus (London: Marshalls; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 66.

HT: Langham Partnership Daily Thought

Luther on the Three Miracles of Christmas

The Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, and Mary’s Faith

The word, “miracle” has become trite and meaningless. The word, “miracle” is used in television commercials for the cleaning properties of a particular soap. “It’s a miracle!” that I got a pay raise from that miserly company. Miracle has come to mean anything unexpected that brings pleasant results.

Theologically, a miracle is an extraordinary event revealing God’s intervention in the everyday affairs of men and women. Martin Luther comments on the three miracles of Christmas day: the incarnation, the virgin birth of Christ, and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience. Luther marvels that the greater of the three miracles is Mary’s faith: her willingness to obey God even though it meant hardship, misunderstanding, and loss of reputation.

Saint Bernard [of Clairvaux] declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of these three. The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be mother of God.

Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day-to-day. Otherwise, Christ is born in vain.

Martin Luther, “The Maiden Mary” in Nancy Guthrie, ed., Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 26.